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Streamwood cop guilty in videotaped beating

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Updated: April 25, 2011 12:19AM

More than 55 times Tuesday night, Judge Thomas Fecarotta watched the videotape of former Streamwood cop James Mandarino beating an unarmed, kneeling motorist.

But no matter how hard he looked for evidence that Mandarino was provoked, “I saw none,” the judge said Wednesday as he found Mandarino guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct.

Nearly a year after the March 28 beating, the verdicts mean the former corporal faces up to five years behind bars when he is sentenced next month.

Testifying Monday, Mandarino, 42, had claimed he was in fear of his life when he beat Ronald Bell 15 times on the back, arms and head as Bell crouched on his driveway following an early morning traffic stop. Mandarino said Bell and passenger Nolan Stalbaum were aggressive and uncooperative when he pulled them over .

But addressing a red-faced Mandar­ino in a packed Rolling Meadows courtroom Wednesday, Fecarotta told him, “Any rational analysis on viewing the video would indicate the conduct of the defendant was wrong. . . . If a picture speaks a thousand words, this video speaks a million.”.

The judge said he agreed with defense attorneys’ claim that Bell and the passenger didn’t tell “the whole truth” when they testified and agreed both were likely intoxicated during the incident and motivated in part by a civil lawsuit they filed against Streamwood. “I’m not saying Mr. Bell and Mr. [Nolan] Stalbaum are upstanding citizens — they are not,” Fecarotta said. Bell was “probably driving drunk” when he was pulled over after attending an engineering union function, the judge added.

But the judge was surprised that Mandarino had exited his squad car with his gun drawn just 44 seconds after he first saw Bell drive past, then Tasered Stalbaum within seconds. The judge said he was “curious” whether the officer knew the camera was on when he beat Bell, because the camera was on before Mandarino first saw Bell.

Mandarino used his baton “as a club,” he said. “It became a deadly weapon.’’

Hands clenched, Mandarino, who was fired last June and is working as a security officer, showed no emotion as the verdict was announced. He left court without commenting.

Ronald Bell, who needed seven stitches to his head after the attack, was not in court Wednesday, but his brother, Stacey, said the verdict reaffirmed his “faith in the justice system.”

Outside court, prosecutor Mike Gerber said Mandarino was a good officer who “snapped — I don’t know why.”

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